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Arturas Karnisovas vows to get creative with Bulls' development in long offseason

Arturas Karnisovas vows to get creative with Bulls' development in long offseason

Talk about cruel coincidence.

The Bulls were in Orlando, Fla. to play a game that never happened on March 11, the night that commissioner Adam Silver suspended the NBA season. And they won’t be in Orlando in July when the league attempts to restart following the COVID-19-induced hiatus.

Nothing has been easy about the Bulls’ 2019-20 season, which makes the unprecedented nature of the offseason seem fitting. Roughly nine months between games for a young team that features a new management regime is hardly ideal.

“I do agree with you that not playing puts us in a competitive disadvantage,” executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas said on a Saturday conference call. “But I think there are creative ways to (stay sharp).”

By all accounts, and in their own words, Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley thrive on relationships, face-to-face interaction and living in the gym. Until Wednesday, when the Bulls followed city guidelines to open the Advocate Center for voluntary, socially distanced workouts, they never even had that opportunity.

Karnisovas said he and Eversley are scheduled to be in Chicago soon. The problem is, the players don’t have to be. That’s why there’s talk between the eight teams excluded from the restart and both the league and players association about alternative methods to navigate an unprecedented offseason.

“We’re getting now on calls and we’re having conversations about how we can develop our players and how we can have a structure in place to get some practicing and possibly some scrimmaging possibly in the offseason to catch up to those teams that are going to be playing. The work obviously never stops,” Karnisovas said. “I informed the players that we will inform them depending on what the league is going to allow us to do this summer, and we’re going to go from there.”

This type of communication with players has been consistent since the Bulls hired the new management regime.

“They've been great.They've both been keeping us abreast of everything that's going on, especially during the time where we were trying to figure out if we could get back in the gym or not or during the time where they were figuring out who's going to go to Orlando,” Thaddeus Young said. “Arturas is very, very good as far as communicating. Marc is great… Obviously, this is a situation where they can't really do their job because we're not playing basketball, and I'm sure they're anxious to really get on the job and get a grasp of things. But they've been great as far as reaching out and talking to us all and making sure they're staying in sync with us.”

Zach LaVine agreed.

“You don’t have any expectations going into something new. But as a player, it’s always good to have them reach out to you. They did that the first day,” LaVine said. “Arturas reached out to me and I’ve had several conversations with him, him just checking in to see how we’re doing, having Zoom calls, text meetings. He has called me individually as well. Same with Marc.

“A lot of it is just getting to know the team. Some of it was just general conversation like, ‘How you’re doing. What have you been doing in Seattle? How are things out there concerning coronavirus and [racial injustice protests] that have been going on.’ It’s been good — general conversation, workouts, what’s been going on with the team, why this didn’t work, why this worked. They’ve been extremely involved.”

Karnisovas said the ideal scenario, which would have to be agreed upon between the league and players association, would be to hold team-oriented activities like practices and possibly scrimmages with other non-bubble teams.

“There’s going to be a lot of player development and individual work, but I also would like to see some team activity, as well, because there’s so much time away from the game of basketball,” Karnisovas said. “Just playing games, I would look for the league to see something like that, to simulate something like that this summer.”

In a typical offseason, teams can’t mandate players to remain in-market. In a TV interview in his native Czech Republic, Tomas Satoransky said he may practice with a team in Prague during the offseason. Karnisovas said Lauri Markkanen has remained in Chicago for now but his family has been back and forth to Finland. LaVine is in Seattle. Young said he’s in Texas for now.

“We’re exchanging a lot of conversations and proposals with the league,” Karnisovas said. “The players in the market, they’ve already been coming into the Advocate Center for individual work. So hopefully I’ll be able to see them. The players out of the market, we’ll continue talking to them. And once we have more direction from the league, we’ll propose a bunch of plans to our players for the summer.

“I’m confident because I think eight teams is a huge part of our league. And I think the league’s interest is to support those teams as well as they can. The proposed structure of some practices and some scrimmages that we would like to see this summer, I think it’s not too much to ask."

RELATED: Arturas Karnisovas pledges to make bounceback plan with Lauri Markkanen

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Former Bull Robin Lopez loving life as a Milwaukee Buck in Disney World

Former Bull Robin Lopez loving life as a Milwaukee Buck in Disney World

From the moment the Milwaukee Bucks arrived at Walt Disney World for the NBA’s restart in Orlando, Fla., Robin Lopez has been his typically humorous self on social media.

The former Bulls center and current Bucks man in the middle, along with twin brother Brook, has never disguised his love for all things Disney. Brook owns a house on the property. And the brothers have visited Disney properties both stateside and overseas for years.

But little did Robin know when he visited the resort over All-Star weekend that he’d be back, not only on the park’s grounds, but playing for the Eastern Conference favorites with a title at stake.

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“So far, it’s very much been surreal,” Lopez said on a Zoom media session Sunday. “I never quite thought these two worlds would collide in the way that they have. I think it’s going to be pretty interesting going forward.”

Lopez expressed his appreciation to NBA and Disney officials for ensuring the so-called bubble is safe for competition, and relished the opportunity to be practicing with his close-knit teammates again. At all his NBA stops, including with the Bulls, Lopez has cemented his status in the locker room as a favorite teammate of many.

“I’m just enjoying myself,” Lopez said. “It’s nice to be back on the floor.”

Lopez couldn’t estimate how many visits he has paid to the property, though he did reveal he has stayed at the resort where the Bucks are located before. Calling himself “sartorially challenged,” Lopez said he has a nice collection of Disney-related T-shirts with images and slogans that he plans to wear to and from practices and games.

 

Lopez has also engaged in a long-running, tongue-in-cheek feud with NBA mascots over his 12-year career. Along those lines, he jokingly tweeted in late April that NBA mascots not being allowed in the bubble would be fine because — well, duh — Disney characters would be present.

Asked how his progress in securing these alternative mascots for games was going, Lopez took the bait.

“I don’t want to use the word alternatives. That takes a group of characters, a cadre of characters, that are the cream-of-the-crop at what they do. And that sullies their names by suggesting they’re merely playing in the same ballpark as NBA mascots,” Lopez said, the sarcasm dripping. “There’s a pyramid to this, you know with the NBA mascots, MLB mascots, NFL mascots are all the way down (low). 

“It would be a blessing to have the Disney characters around our game, around our sporting events. Whatever the children do these days, please tag the mascots in that statement.”

MORE: The Palace of Auburn Hills demolished, site of many Bulls-Pistons battles

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The Palace of Auburn Hills demolished, site of many Bulls-Pistons battles

The Palace of Auburn Hills demolished, site of many Bulls-Pistons battles

It's the building in which the Bulls' dynasty took off.

It's also the building in which plenty of Bulls' heartbreak occurred.

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Yes, the Palace of Auburn Hills, located in Auburn Hills, Mich., met its demise Saturday morning. Workers imploded the grand building, which, as one of the first multipurpose arenas, served as an instructional blueprint for the Bulls and Blackhawks when they constructed the United Center. 

 

The Pistons played in the arena from 1988 to 2017, and won three championships while calling it home. Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has said many times over the years that then-Pistons owner Bill Davidson, who privately financed the arena, advised him and Bill Wirtz on its good and bad aspects before Reinsdorf and Wirtz teamed up to open the United Center in 1994.

Most everyone who went there simply called it “The Palace.” It's where the Pistons, led by Isiah Thomas, refused to shake the Bulls' hands as they swept them out of the 1991 Eastern Conference finals en route to the first of their six titles. It's also where Scottie Pippen suffered a migraine headache in a depressing Game 7 loss in the 1990 Eastern Conference finals.

RELATED: An Aggregated Oral History of Michael Jordan-Isiah Thomas revived beef in 2020

"They were always bullying people, and I remember at shootaround that morning we swept them, they were yelling at us to get off the floor when we still had 30 minutes left," former Bulls center and current TV analyst Stacey King told NBC Sports Chicago's K.C. Johnson when Johnson worked for the Chicago Tribune. "We were like, 'You're down 3-0! Scottie walked over with a fake broom and acted like he was sweeping the floor and said: 'You all are down. Get ready for the summer.' They were a prideful bunch. And I knew that hurt them."

King said these words before the Bulls' final game in The Palace on March 6, 2017. He also acknowledged when the Pistons Game 7 victory in 1990 — and what Michael Jordan did afterward.

"Michael said, 'We won't lose to them again in a playoff series.' And we didn't," King said. "But they were unbeatable here for a while. The fans, the energy in here with so much at stake between us, it was one of the most fun places to play. For a while, they were the bully and we were the kid they took the lunch money from."

The Pistons moved to the sparkling Little Caesars Arena, located in downtown Detroit, for the 2017-18 season.

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